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 Welcome back to the OMEGA RESEARCH UPDATE! Thank you for your kind responses to our first issue which came out in January. Your comments and suggestions are appreciated and help us to tailor our technical information towards your needs. As we stated in the Winter 1998 edition, we have a multitude of subjects that command space in future issues. This issue, the Spring 1998 issue, was originally slated to talk about GOOFS in the processing of test samples, coupons etc. Because many of your comments expressed interest in the area of specifications, the changes happening, and how they impact the metal finishing industry, we are going to change things up and devote this issue to SPECIFICATIONS. Hopefully, when you are done reading this issue you might have a little more insight into the workings of the specs that govern our industry.

So lets begin. Pour yourself a cup of coffee, grab a jelly donut and read about:


The requirements that govern us

Specifications, or specs for short, are really a 20th century term. In a free enterprise system or society, the need for detailed written specifications did not happen overnight. Before specifications for products or services ever saw the light of day, the more simple concept of requirements governed. It can be found that in the early days of the United States, when the Continental Congress authorized the formation of America's first Army, governmental edicts were issued calling for the colonies to procure certain items needed for the "...prosecution of war..." against the crown. This involved everything from the buying of horses and food provisions to the actual procurement of weapons. But remember in those days, before the birth of the industrial revolution, the manufacture of weapons was done on a craftsman basis. More easily understood, this meant that rifles, cannons, etc. were made individually and none were identical. Hence, since you physically could not replicate a weapon from lot to lot, why would you need a specification to govern their purchase? It is interesting to see old Continental Congress purchasing documents, where they simply address " the procurement of 10 score muskets...." with nothing more specified.

When the civil war rolled around in early 1860, the War department was beginning to realize that the "...prosecution of war..." against the confederacy would require the full manufacturing might and genius of the Federal government in order to prevail. America was in the beginning phase of the industrial revolution sweeping the world at the time. The infant science of machine tools was allowing the manufacture of weapons, identical from piece to piece, and lot to lot. However, the design of weapons continued to be governed by the philosophy of individual companies making the weapons. The War department realized that when it procured muskets or rifles from ACME Musket Company, it must require them to be able to use bullets from XYZ Lead Company. One story told during the early days of the civil war was that cannon balls from, let's say, ACME Musket Co would fly farther in their own cannons than in competitors cannons. Field commanders wondered why and thought it prudent to always go into battle with ACME Cannons. It took awhile for artillery men to realize that it was not better cannons, but rather tighter, more appropriate tolerances on the cannon balls that made them fit better in the cannon bores. With the onset of the industrial revolution, the making of War became easier, or at least more of a science. This period during the Civil War was the beginning of the U.S. Government issuing procurement or purchase orders with actual requirements shown. Alas, the birth of the 900 lb gorilla known as Federal Specifications happened! Wow, when we look back on the last 130 years of Federal Specifications, we sometimes wonder how we ever won a war.


The War department, now known as the Department of Defense, has issued literally tens of thousands of specifications over the years, creating a massive bureaucracy of people, facilities, equipment, test labs, and red tape. Concurrent to the efforts of the War department, and starting way back in the 1880's, the private or industrial sector also began to see the need for specifications in the day to day running of industry. The birth of the railroad and steel industries in the 1880's was realty the catalyst for industry specs as we know them today. The early railroads such as the Pennsylvania soon realized that different types of steel rails performed much better than other types. Since the railroad industry was growing in gigantic leaps every year, the railroads tried to develop their own specifications for steel rails, switches, etc. However, resistance was great. Most steel companies saw this as a way for their competitors to find out their trade secrets, or worse, that the customer, god forbid, would dictate quality! It took decades of delicate politics for the railroads, the steel companies and the Federal government to come to some form of agreement on standard specifications for industrial products. The birth of the National Bureau Of Standards was a result of this early desire for standardization. The first industry coalition to tackle specifications and standards was the American Society for Testing of Materials, or ASTM for short. Its beginnings are traced back to 1898, making this year its centennial year. About 15 years later, in the early 1900's, the young automotive industry soon realized that it also needed some standardization in the form of specifications, and soon the Society of Automotive Engineers , or SAE , was born. Henry Ford a founding father of SAE and from SAE in the late 1930's sprang the aerospace branch or directorate known today as AMS, or Aerospace Materials Specifications.


For the aerospace metal finishing industry today, the prevailing requirements and specifications can be found from these three sources; I) The Federal government in the form of Federal and Military Specifications, Standards and Handbooks, 2) ASTM specifications and 3) AMS specifications.

After World War II, rapid if not explosive growth in Federal Specs occurred. One must put this in perspective in that incredible advances in the aeronautical sciences were occurring virtually each day, and the Federal Government felt it imperative to control and govern the quality and performance attributes of aircraft and aerospace products. Even the civilian side of the Federal Government subscribed to the data bank of specifications, i.e. the Commerce, Transportation, Interior, Treasury, and yes even the Agriculture Department signed up for Federal and Military Specs. The design and manufacture of civilian transports today is governed by a Military Specification, a massive spec known as MIL-HDBK-5. Some well known Federal and Military specifications used by our metal finishing industry are QQ-N-290, QQ-C-320, QQ-S-365, QQ-P-416 and many, many others. Some well known Military specifications used by our industry are MIL-STD-870, MIL-C-26074, DOD-P-16232, MIL-STD-1500, MIL-STD-1501 and dozens others. For the most part, these specifications were born from the federal government which believed that tight controls or requirements were needed for aircraft quality and safety. We all have opinions as to the quality of some Federal or Military specs. Most do provide good requirements that affect end product quality. Some, however, have produced requirements that are not realistic, impossible to produce, are vague, or simply strange. A secondary reason was that a government bureau was all that was needed to generate a spec, something that could be developed and issued somewhat quickly without the in-fighting or arguing that occurs with industry consensus specifications. ASTM and AMS industry documents are generated by committees of individuals with technical backgrounds and qualifications. They are by definition, consensus documents, or documents that can be issued, revised or cancelled only by debate and vote of a majority of committee members. As with our democratic system, the majority rules. For all intents and purposes, Federal and Military specifications are not consensus documents. They are issued through various Federal or Military institutions known as custodians or caretakers for the documents. For our metal finishing industry, probably 95% of our Federal and Military specs are generated by either the Dept. of the Navy, Army, or Air Force. A multitude of individual Commands are represented as custodians, a good example being the Navy Air Warfare Command as the custodian for QQ-P-416. It seems that most of the newer MIL-STDs and MIL-HDBKs have been issued by Air Force Commands, with Wright-Patterson AFB in Dayton Ohio a big one. Unique Military specifications can be found through various Missile Commands, another example being the Redstone Arsenal in Alabama for Army missile development. Somewhat unique coalition specifications in the form of NAS documents, or National Aeronautical Standards also are prevalent in the aircraft and aerospace industry. Here agreements between industry and government (NASA) have brought forth standards and specifications for high reliability products and processes.


We all know of and work to proprietary specifications, or specifications developed and owned by individual companies or prime contractors, These have traditionally been developed when aerospace companies find that there are no government or industry specs that govern their unique process or product, or when they believe that government or industry specs are not tight enough in quality controls they believe are needed to ensure flight safety. Good examples of these are BOEING BAC specs, BELL HELICOPTER BPS specs, SIKORSKY SS documents, McDONNELL-DOUGLAS (now BOEING) P.S. and D.P.S specs. LOCKHEED STP specs and many, many others. Proprietary specs allow aerospace primes more control over their products, the ability to contractually specify qualified producers (QPL lists), the ability to limit access to patented or sensitive processes, and also to quickly respond to industry or quality process changes in the marketplace. For many decades, proprietary specs have taken a front seat in the metal finishing industry. Recently, however, the Department of Defense has taken a dim view of contractor or proprietary specs utilized in some new weapons system programs. Increased pressure to use industry ASTM and AMS specs is growing, and it will be interesting to see what changes will occur over the next decade concerning this issue.


In the late 1980's, the Department of Defense, after extensive committee work and deliberations, issued a major policy change, from then Secretary of Defense Dick Cheany's office, that the Department of Defense should "get out of the specification business..." Certain timing milestones were set for the retirement, cancellation, or replacement of virtually all Federal, Military, and DOD specifications. Philosophically, the DOD felt two benefits could be realized. The first was that massive cost reductions could be realized by the elimination or cancellation of specifications. This of course meant reductions in manpower at the various DOD commands. The second benefit believed to be possible was simply that the private or industrial sector of the American economy is far more dominate than any military areas, and as such the application of good private industry practice would simplify military procurement.

Initially we have seen the outright cancellation of hundreds of specs felt obsolete or unneeded. Some of these cancellations have occurred without good forethought as to the ripple effect on our industry and others. Some cancellations have been rescinded or pushed back in cancellation date. Many cancellations have referred to similar industry ASTM and AMS specs. However, some of these replacement specs have been found to not be comparable in requirements or even application. The DOD is having to go back now and reinstate some cancelled specs until equivalent industry specs can come on line for coverage. (Good examples of specification reinstatement are QQ-P-35 on Passivation and Mil-C-26074 on E. Nickel) Some specs have simply been changed from spec to a standard, i.e. MIL-l-6868 was changed initially to a MIL-STD-6868, as the DOD edict stated that the government was getting out of the spec business. It did not address government standards. Some cost cutting bureaucrats caught on to this and stopped the practice. Today we are seeing some specs going to a handbook status to prolong their lives. A big effort is being made to bring on line new or updated AMS and ASTM specs to give coverage for cancelled government specs. However, the time line for the govt. ending its specification responsibilities is growing short, and we are now seeing efforts to take specs such as QQ-P-416, put it under AMS control and call it AMS-QQ-P-416 until such time as an equivalent AMS spec would be developed. This may be actually a Xerox of the government spec with an AMS letterhead attached! Time will tell if this actually happens and how well it will work. The central document centers in the U.S. have been the Government Printing Office in Washington, D.C. and the U.S. Navy Publications center in Philadelphia. Significant manpower reductions have occurred within these directorates, resulting in not only more difficulty in obtaining government specs but also user financial costs, as government, specs no longer are free.

Changes in Federal & Military specs that have been seen over the past few years are along the lines of:


1) Specification_Cancelled_Without_Replacement: This can mean that either the Government custodians felt the spec was obsolete or they didn't bother to research for an industry spec for equivalency.

2) Specification_Cancelled_and_Superseded_by: This means that either another Government spec or industry spec has been found to meet the future needs of the user.

3) Specification_Cancelled: New Reference This call out has been found on some specs where it is stated that the spec is cancelled and that a suitable or possible replacement spec XXX can be utilized on a case by case basis depending on the user and
their approving agency.

4) Specification_Declared_Non-Current for Future Acquisition: What this means is the specification is not to be used for new designs, weapons systems, or programs. Existing designs, engineering drawing callouts or purchase order requirements may/shall still reference the non current spec and its requirements are still in force. Specifications under this category will not have future custodial care i.e. they will not be updated, revised or improved in the future.

5) Specification_Declared_Inactive: Although the meaning of this has varied, essentially the Government is declaring that the spec is inactive, but may be resurrected in the future if necessary.

6) Specification_Changed_to_Performance_Spec: Several Mil specs have been changed from a Mil-Spec or Mil-Std to a MJL-PRF spec. While the intention of this is fuzzy, this may be simply a clerical effort to prolong the life of an existing spec or standard until a suitable replacement is found.

A short review of aircraft/aerospace industry document protocol is needed here. All aircraft systems are made up of individual part or component blueprints, normally referred to as engineering drawings these days. The engineering drawing is the absolute, final authority in the aircraft industry - it can literally be considered the bible for us. These engineering drawings contain not only detailed geometric and dimensional information but also all material and process information callouts and requirements. It is usually here in the material block call out section that reference to the metal finishing requirements and specifications are noted. Even though a cancelled plating or process spec may be called out on the blueprint, this does not mean that the cancelled spec evaporates into thin air. The cancelled spec is usually continued in use for future part manufacturing. Some people have thought that just because a spec is cancelled they don't have to follow it for future work coming into their shop. This can be wrong. Always note the actual purchase order requirement and the requirement of the referenced engineering drawing/blueprint. Taking this even farther, some aircraft primes today insist that old, prior revisions of Federal or Military specs be used during the mfg. of new parts, i.e. QQ-P-416c is still being called out by some primes in purchase orders for new parts, even though the "F" revision is current. The rationale is usually that a prior revision had some different, more specific requirement that they feel important. Once again we stress the fact that you should always study the purchase order requirements from the customer, for the customer is responsible here for specifying what the requirements are.


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